Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips

Since February is American Heart Month, I thought I’d share with you some heart-healthy cooking tips.

To lower risk of heart disease or to manage existing disease, try these tips:

Limit Fat, Especially Saturated and Trans Fat

  • Select lean cuts of beef and pork, especially cuts with “loin” or “round” in their name.
  • Remove all visible fat from meat before cooking. Take the skin off chicken or turkey before eating.
  • Cut back on processed meats high in saturated fat, such as hot dogs, salami and bacon.
  • Bake, broil, roast, stew or stir-fry lean meats, fish or poultry.
  • Drain the fat off cooked, ground meat.
  • When you make a stew, soup or gravy, refrigerate leftovers and skim the fat with a spoon before reheating and serving.
  • Eat fish regularly. Try different ways of cooking like baking, broiling, grilling and poaching for variety.
  • Eat plant foods as sources of protein including soybeans, pinto beans, lentils and nuts.
  • Replace higher-fat cheeses with lower-fat options like reduced-fat feta and part-skim mozzarella.
  • Thicken sauces with evaporated non-fat milk instead of whole milk.
  • Move toward using lower-fat milk and yogurt. Start with 2 percent products, then move to 1 percent and finally to fat-free to adjust to the new taste.
  • Use liquid vegetables oils and soft margarine instead of stick margarine or shortening.
  • Limit cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, muffins, doughnuts and French fries. These foods tend to be the biggest sources of trans fats. Many food manufacturers have removed trans fats from their foods. Check ingredient lists on food packages and avoid products containing partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Use non-stick spray or a nonstick pan for cooking. Try low sodium broth as a substitute for oil when sautéing
  • Use oils such as canola and olive oil in recipes.
  • Make salad dressings with olive, walnut or pecan oil.

Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish or Supplements

  • Eat two 4-ounce portions of fatty fish each week, like salmon, albacore tuna (in water, if canned), mackerel and sardines.
  • Fish oil supplements are acceptable for those that don’t eat fish. The recommended dose is 1000mg of omega-3 fatty acids from a combination of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per day.  Note: Check with your physician before beginning this or any supplementation.
  • Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax, walnuts and canola oil. Although excellent and healthy fats, they do not have the EPA and DHA that fish do.

Reduce Salt (Sodium)

  • The majority (75%) of sodium comes from foods eaten away from home and processed foods. First priority is to limit those.
  • Prepare foods at home so you can control the amount of salt in your meals.
  • Use as little salt in cooking as possible. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes.
  • Do not salt food at the table.
  • Do not use mixes or “instant” products that already contain salt or additives with sodium.
  • Select no-sodium or low-sodium canned foods, such as vegetables or tuna.
  • Season foods with herbs, spices, garlic, onions, peppers and lemon or lime juice to add flavor versus added salt.

Make Healthier Carbohydrate Choices

  • When baking, use recipes that call for whole grains and flours made from whole grains.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes. It can often be cut in half.
  • Instead of sugar, use noncaloric sweeteners in drinks and sucralose when baking.
  • Stir-fry fiber-rich vegetables, such as peppers, cabbage, broccoli and carrots.
  • Add dried beans and lentils to homemade soup to boost fiber.

Adapted and reproduced with permission of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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